Over the past 8 years I have held many titles within Student Affairs, but the title that I’ve struggled with the most in this field is: Introvert. While I understand that there are grey areas in regards to personality groups, we all know when we lean to one side more than the other. Residence Life, Admissions, Student Activities, Greek Life, etc. are all filled with amazing bubbly happy people who have some sort of cheerleader button deep inside then that causes them to love their way through the long days and piles of paperwork they face on a regular basis. Let’s be clear, I am one of those people! I can introduce myself to perfect strangers, find a common ground with them and ensure them that they will come to love that non air-conditioned room on that all-girls floor directly above the lounge; I can calm a fretful parent while reassuring their child that the missing window screen is not going to “ruin their entire college experience”; and I can convince a student leader that the event they planned and advertised for months was successful despite the low attendance. Best of all I can do it all with a smile on my face and a skip in my step.
But at some point, I will crash. All my energy, and niceness will disappear and that is when I need my -me- time. I need to curl up in my big comfy reading chair with a book or my laptop and Netflix brimming with unseen House of Cards episodes. I needed those blissfully silent hours devoid of interaction and expectations. I must explain that I not only want this alone time, I NEED it. Without some time to decompress and recharge, I will no longer be one of those bubbly people. One of the mistakes I’ve made in my career is giving in to the pressure from friends and coworkers to socialize when I knew I needed down time. I would attend their events, go out to dinner, play Just Dance in someones apartment or participate in the all too crucial Wine and Whine Wednesdays. But the whole time I would be picturing that comfy chair and missing my Netflix. While I did enjoy many of these gatherings, they did not help to make me a better person or professional. So I’d like to give a few pointers for my fellow SA introverts:
- Forgive your extroverted coworkers
For them, socialization is great. They need it. I understood that I was an integral part of my extroverted friends need to relax and shake off their day/week/month(August anyone?). Since I knew it was important to them, I would put their needs ahead of my own. I mean, I work in student Affairs, I am by nature, a nurturer. So I would attend events, but leave early and have everyone call me out on it. And I repeated this process for years. But at some point you have to choose your needs over others.
Do not feel bad or guilty for taking that much needed alone time
Be selfish, at least a little. Know that you can not be that great friend or coworker to that extroverted person if you have not had the chance to charge. It is as necessary as food, air, shelter water and all those other hierarchical needs. Those student that depend on you, that parent that needs your reassurance, that supervisor that needs your best work, they all depend on you being able to stand up for yourself and take care of yourself.
- Help other understand this need
I have found that because introverts are “quiet” they also tend to be analytical. You undoubtedly realize how important socialization is to your extroverted counterparts, but they may have a harder time understanding your lack of desire for company. This is not because they are insensitive, it’s just because socialization makes them so happy, they can’t quite fathom not wanting it all the time. If you are having a hard time getting your extroverted friends to “get” you, send them this educational guide on the right:
- Be a role model for other extroverts, whether they be SA professionals, students or just friends
By taking care of your own needs, you show those around you that it is ok, for them to do the same. You know this. It’s been quoted in every office you have worked in. You yourself have told this to those overextended/overly involved students who are one meeting away from a breakdown. So hey, take your own advice.
- Don’t use your introversion as an excuse to ignore your friends and coworkers
It is certainly ok, to recharge when you need to, but be careful not to take it too far. Make sure you attend that occasional dinner or Wine and Whine session. It’s good for you and your coworkers will be ecstatic to see you.